February is American Heart Health month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in the US. The likelihood that someone will have a heart problem in their lifetime can be determined by a number of risk factors. While we cannot change some risk factors- such as age, gender and family history, there are a number of lifestyle changes you can make to improve your heart health and reduce your chances of heart disease.
Reduce your risk of heart disease
- Stop smoking – Smoking increases blood pressure and causes reduced blood flow in the arteries. After one year of quitting smoking, you will cut your risk of heart disease by half!
- Maintain a healthy weight and stay physically active – Excess weight and fatty deposits clog arteries and cause your heart to work harder to pump blood. Get in at least 30 minutes a day of exercise. Leading a sedentary lifestyle results in an increased risk of death and heart disease.
- Watch what you eat – Strive for a diet high in fruits, vegetables, grains and low fat protein. Limit your total fat intake to around 30% of your caloric intake.
- Monitor your cholesterol numbers – High cholesterol levels cause blockages that can lead to heart attack. Get your cholesterol levels checked regularly.
- Monitor your blood pressure – Having high blood pressure increases your chances of heart attack and stroke, even if those numbers are only slightly elevated. Keep your blood pressure under control by reducing your sodium intake, avoid drinking excess alcohol and staying physically active.
These are steps that anyone can take, whether they have health insurance or not. Here are some related posts to help you follow the general guidelines above and reduce your risk of heart disease even without an expensive gym membership or expensive doctors visits: